A Diamond is Forever, Not Just for Valentine's Day

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As Valentine's Day approaches many hearts are pounding with deepest love. Lovers may choose this special time to show their commitment to future marriage with a diamond engagement ring. But how to make an informed choice of this most precious of symbols and where to buy in an increasingly competitive market?

The word "diamond" is derived from the Greek "adamas", meaning indomitable. In the Middle Ages the diamond was thought to be a protection against the plague, Queen Elizabeth I wore one in her bosom to protect against infection. Napoleon, another believer in its mystic powers, had the famous Regent diamond in the hilt of the sword he carried at his coronation. The diamond has the legendary power of protecting the wearer form evil, especially when worn on the left side. This belief may well have added to the choice of a diamond for an engagement ring. Continuing the marital theme there is a superstition that a gift of a diamond "quickens the affection and restores love between husband and wife".

The earliest recorded diamond engagement ring was given to Mary of Burgundy in 1477 by her fiancé, Maximilian of Hapsburg. It was during the latter half of the 17th century that the Italian, Vincenzo Peruzzi invented the brilliant cut, forerunner of the many diamond cuts known today and still the cut that produces the most "fire" in a stone.

Today there is a plentiful supply of very small diamonds and these feature prominently in modern designs. The different surface finishes of precious metals lend themselves to the scattering and clustering of these smaller diamonds.

A single solitaire diamond of adequate size to stand alone without embellishment however is still considered to be the most luxurious form of ring.

They are the four variables that determine the value of a diamond (known as the 4 C's); Carat Weight, Clarity, Color, Cut

Carat Weight:

Carat weight is the standard of measurement for the gemstone industry. One carat equals 0.2 grams. Historically, the "carob bean" was used as the standard, which, although was not precise, had a fairly consistent weight. This is where the name "carat" came from. For stones under one carat, carats are generally broken down into "points", where,

100 points equals one carat (ct).

50 points equals ½ ct, 25 points is ¼ ct etc.

A .86 ct diamond is said to be 86 points, or sometimes an "86 pointer".

Carat weight does not mean size. Because carats are weight, the actual size of two diamonds having the same carat weight can vary, depending on the proportions (diameter, depth, length, width, etc.). In other words, two diamonds having the same carat weight, may appear to be different sizes if one is cut deeper or shallower than the other.


Clarity is an evaluation of internal characteristics, judged under 10x magnification. The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) has developed the grading system which is the international standard. The grades range from "Flawless' to "Imperfect" and are described below.

One point to keep in mind is that stones with fewer or no inclusions are not necessarily "better", but rather are "rarer" in nature, and therefore more expensive.

By the GIA definition, any diamond graded SI2 or higher has no eye visible inclusions. Inclusions rarely, if ever, affect the "brilliance" or "fire" of a diamond. Light enters a diamond from so many directions, that the microscopic inclusions do not interfere. Only major inclusions in an imperfect stone will reduce brilliance.

GIA - Clarity Grading Scale:

Internally Flawless FL - IF

Very Very Slight Inclusions VVS1 - VVS2

Very Slight Inclusions VS1 - VS2

Slight Inclusions SI1 - SI2

Imperfect I1 - I2 - I3


Color grading is also standardized using the GIA color grading system illustrated below. Color in a diamond is more accurately described as "lack of color". Most diamonds occur in nature having minute impurities causing them to have a slight yellowish cast. The more a diamond approaches absolutely colorless, the whiter it appears when cut. Colorless diamonds are quite rare in nature and are therefore the most expensive.

The GIA color scale begins with the letter D and ends with Z , for white stones (Fancy colored diamonds such as yellow, pink, blue, etc. are graded differently). This scale ranges from colorless to yellow.

D E F Colorless

G H I J Near Colorless

K L M Faint Yellow

N O P Q R Very Light Yellow

S T U V W X Y Z Light Yellow

It costs money to have a diamond graded and certificated by the GIA. A certified diamond therefore is not necessarily better than an equal weight uncertified diamond. It will however be more expensive to cover the cost of grading. Your jeweler may have chosen not to have a very good diamond certified due to this added premium on his selling price.


Cut is probably the most important factor in achieving beauty and brilliance in a diamond, but is also the least understood and most vague when assigning value. Cut refers to two things: Shape and proportion.

The standard diamond shapes are: Brilliant, Princess, Oval, Pear, Marquise, Emerald, Heart, Cushion

Shape appeal is entirely a personal preference but be aware that shapes that are the most symmetrical are the most brilliant. Because round diamonds are the most brilliant, they are also the most popular. Due to the common principals of supply and demand, round (brilliant cut) diamonds are generally the most expensive shape.

Proportion is the single most important element in determining brilliance in a diamond. The angles of the diamonds facets are what causes light to reflect through the stone in a quality known as "Fire". Most diamonds are cut in a compromising way, so as to retain as much weight as possible from the rough crystal, yet achieve maximum brilliance. Only diamonds cut to "Ideal Proportions" (known as Ideal Cut) truly achieve the maximum possible brilliance or fire.

The Ideal Cut is a mathematical formula, developed in the 1920's, for cutting diamonds at the precise angles and proportions necessary for light to be reflected and exit through the top of the stone. In other words, there is no light leakage or "dead spots" when looking into the stone. Light rays from all sides of the diamond are bent towards the center of the stone and reflect back through the top in rainbow blaze of light! This can only really be achieved in round stones, which are absolutely symmetrical.

The reason not all diamonds are cut to this standard is because it requires losing extra weight from the rough crystal. Therefore, Ideal Cut diamonds are a premium cost, because one must pay for the "lost weight". The advantage is a more brilliant diamond!

So where to buy? It's not just the High Street anymore. Consider the overheads in security, insurance, stock holding, staff, prime location rent and rates and the luxurious fittings and surroundings that you expect when purchasing jewelery. It's not surprising then that the fastest growing jewelers are internet based.

With competition fierce on the web the buyer is very much in the driving seat. Lower overheads mean fantastic savings. It's true that you cannot touch and hold on the internet but any web based jeweler worth buying from will offer a no quibble returns policy so that if you don't like your purchase you can return it for a full refund. One such exciting web based retailer is Ampalian Direct Jewelery.

Ampalian Direct Jewelery (http://www.ampalian.com) offers a huge and ever growing range of designs, a lowest price guarantee, very personal service, delivery within 5 working days and that all important no quibble returns policy covering a full 30 days.


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Malcolm Cooper